KESC, Karachi and the Power Outages

Posted on March 7, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, >Owais Mughal, Photo of the Day
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Owais Mughal and Adil Najam

The photo to the right shows Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) staff fixing something on the electric pole in Saddar area of Karachi in one of their daily dare devil stunts. This photo appears in the Daily Jang of March 6, 2008.

This photograph, however, is a metaphor for much more than a messed up bureaucracy. It is a reminder of the many many messes we have gotten ourselves into – from perpetual load-shedding, to flooded streets, to collapsing bridges, to much more (here, here, here, here, here, here). It is also a reminder of the most of many crises in Karachi’s civic amenities situation, which left all of Karachi in the dark because of unpaid bills.

The details, according to an AFP story, are:

A row over unpaid bills sparked a huge power blackout in Pakistan’s biggest city that left most of Karachi’s 12 million residents without electricity, officials said Thursday. The outage came after Pakistan’s main power utility accused the electricity company supplying the southern port of refusing to settle debts of more than half a billion dollars.

It affected bazaars, businesses and homes in the normally bustling economic hub and caused huge traffic jams as signals went out of order, witnesses said. “KESC (Karachi Electric Supply Co.) owes 34.8 billion rupees (548 million dollars) to us, which they have avoided paying for many months,” said Tahir Bisharat Cheema, the director general of the supply and management wing of the country’s Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). He said the company only repaid 250 million rupees despite weekly reminders “to which they never replied.”

“We sent them a final reminder on Wednesday and informed them that we would stop supplying electricity if the longstanding dues were not paid,” Cheema told AFP.
Karachi has a history of frequent powercuts, but they usually only affect certain districts for a few hours at a time. Many businesses have generators, but private households rarely do.

“We have got a small generator for our house but it has proved highly expensive today because we don’t know when power is going to come back,” said Gulzar Ahmed, who lives in the middle class Liaquatabad neighbourhood. The city’s power company said supplies were returning to about a third of the city later Thursday but accused the national utility of failing to warn it about the shutoff. “They suddenly stopped supplying 300 megawatts to Karachi at 8am and the power supply fell to virtually zero,” KESC spokesman Sultan Hassan told AFP.

“KESC staff are making efforts to restore electricity supply but it needs WAPDA supplies resumed first” he said. Pakistan suffered major outages earlier this year — even in the normally well-supplied capital Islamabad — which authorities blamed on a lack of water for hydropower facilities.

The photograph at the beginning of this post is just a snapshop on the time continuum, and my whole information of the incident comes from this photo alone. Therefore we should not reach any conclusion on what these guys did (or did not do) to the illegal hooks (kunda) connections after this photo was taken but the oblivion of these men to illegal connections right under their noses is striking. Whether the KESC Staff finally removed these illegal connections or not (we don’t know), just the appearence of so many illegal connections makes this photo news worthy.

What we do know, however, that the power crisis in Pakistan – but especially in Karachi – keeps getting from bad to worse. We look at this picture and the mess of wires seems to say that things may well have gone beyond repair. The question is, is the electric power situation in Karachi also gone beyond repair? We hope not. And if so, then how should we repair things in Karachi on the electricity front.

ATP’s other realted Posts: What is Wrong with KESC, andher nagri, and WAPDA crises.

17 responses to “KESC, Karachi and the Power Outages”

  1. Ali says:

    Believe me, it is uncertainities and social failures like these which have kept a country like Pakistan alive for all these years.

    Our poverty is fuels our determination to live and to dream big.

    The more days pass by, the more I grow in love with Pakistan.

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